On behalf of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition's staff and board of directors, "THANK YOU!" for your incredible assistance and support this year to protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead, their rivers and the benefits they deliver to people and ecosystems.
With your help, SOS is leveraging linked crises today – salmon and orca – to move people and politics to deliver solutions. We’ve covered a lot of ground this year and we’re gearing up for an active 2020. This update summarizes our top achievements in 2019 and priorities for the coming year.
2020 will be a critical year for Snake River salmon, Southern Resident orcas, and Northwest communities. Please support our continued progress in 2020 with a generous, fully tax-deductible gift before December 31st, 2019.
Contact us if you have questions. Thank you.
Joseph Bogaard, executive director
Save Our wild Salmon Coalition
I. 2019 OVERVIEW
SOS is on offense today. We’re expanding regional and national attention on the urgent plight of salmon and orca and engaging new political leadership to confront these crises. Salmon and orcas have sent heartbreaking signals this year - and much more is needed to recover these iconic Northwest species. Adult fish returns to the Snake River this year are among the lowest on record and in August, researchers announced the death of three more orcas. Just 73 whales survive today.
The good news is that our persistent, coordinated work is bearing fruit. New political leadership is emerging and essential conversations with stakeholders and policymakers expanding. We're working with others to craft a regional ‘package’ that restores the lower Snake River by removing its four federal dams and invests in affected communities to ensure that no one gets left behind.
SOS’ strategic, coordinated work with member organizations and other allies is at the heart of this shift, with new partners and resources coming into the campaign. This new capacity will be essential to leverage the opportunity before us: achieving our nation’s largest river restoration, helping to protect orca and rebuilding salmon abundance to benefit people and ecosystems.
II. 2019 ACCOMPLISHMENTS
This year’s most significant political development comes from Idaho. In April, Congressman Mike Simpson – a Republican in a red state - delivered keynote remarks at a salmon recovery conference in Boise. He highlighted the plight of Idaho’s salmon and steelhead and the financial challenges facing the Bonneville Power Administration today – and he announced his intention to develop legislation to address both. Can we, he asked, craft a deal that removes the lower Snake dams and leaves no communities behind? His speech sent shock waves through the region, affecting related discussions already under way.
SOS played a critical role to kick off one such conversation in Washington State. Our coordinated campaign in 2018 forced Columbia Basin salmon, dam removal and ‘spill’ onto the agenda of Gov. Inslee’s Orca Task Force. By year-end, the Task Force’s recommendations included (i) a stakeholder conversation around lower Snake river dam removal and (ii) expanded spill at the federal dams to help salmon now. Our work continued into 2019 when we secured support for both recommendations from Gov. Inslee and the legislature - the two measures received full funding in the final state budget last April.
The governor’s stakeholder process is now under way. 80+ interviews will be conducted, with a report and public meetings in early 2020. SOS is actively participating. We will continue to support this engagement by the governor and legislature in 2020 as a critical complement to other positive developments occurring across the region today.
SOS’ advocacy has helped increase ‘spill’ at Columbia/Snake river dams and strengthen this essential lifeline for fish today while our region works on a dam removal plan in the next several years. SOS' work over time has steadily increased spill. At the start of 2018, the Court ordered a new expansion of spill and by year-end, BPA announced an interim deal to further increase spill during 2019-2021. This short-term agreement expands spill for salmon while minimizing BPA’s financial pain and reducing the threat of new litigation - at least through 2021. The agreement relies on Oregon and Washington modifying their water quality standards. SOS has led the charge as watchdog in both states – coordinating with partners, engaging our troops and policymakers, and more. As of today, both states appear to be on track to make the changes needed to allow the highest ever levels of spring spill in time for the upcoming migration in 2020.
SOS is engaging regional policymakers and stakeholders in 2019 around solutions for meeting energy and transportation needs if/when the lower Snake River dams are removed. SOS has coordinated steady pressure on members of Congress, governors and state legislators through direct and grasstops/grassroots contacts. We’ve helped deliver new scientific and economic information that supports dam removal and the opportunity it presents for communities. And we’re building relationships with regional energy leaders to understand needs, expand dialogue and develop solutions.
Our work in eastern Washington led by Inland Northwest Director Sam Mace is especially important – and we recently hired new staff to expand our capacity and program work here. We’re excited about the addition of Carrie Herrman to SOS staff who joined Sam in the Spokane office in June. Carrie is growing our outreach and organizing programs in the Inland Northwest and allowing Sam to spend more time on strategic stakeholder and political engagement in this important geography.
SOS also expanded its program work in Oregon in 2019. We’re working with allies to expand ‘spill’, educate and mobilize our troops and the public, and build new support for dam removal among stakeholders and policymakers in Oregon. Mid-year, SOS also secured seed funding to support expanded program work in northeast Oregon – another strategic geography for both the state and region. And this fall we’re assisting a series of coalition-hosted screenings of the excellent orca/salmon documentary Dammed to Extinction across the state to educate, inspire and build our troops for 2020 activities and impact.
The next 12-15 months will be pivotal for the Snake River and its salmon. Our work ahead will focus especially on engaging key constituencies, stakeholders, and policymakers in the Northwest to build support for a regional ‘deal’ – a dam removal package that protects salmon and orca from extinction, and ensures a healthy clean energy sector and vibrant fishing and farming communities. Moving key policymakers will require increased public involvement across the Northwest, building relationships with key stakeholders, and engaging community and business leaders who can shift the conversation.
SOS’ PRIORITIES IN 2020 INCLUDE:
1) Advancing policymaker and stakeholder outreach regionally. In Washington, we’ll continue to participate in the Snake River stakeholder process and press Gov. Inslee to further this work. Members of Congress are exploring legislative solutions and we’ll continue to encourage urgent constructive engagement by all involved to help build critical support and momentum.
2) Mobilizing people. We’ll use the federal agencies’ Draft EIS comment period (Feb-April) as a platform to engage citizens, businesses and leaders across the region to press for Northwest officials to provide the political support this issue requires. We’ll continue teaming up with allies to bring people together for film screenings and other educational public events.
3) Securing more 'spill' in time for the 2020 spring migration - strengthening this critical lifeline for salmon now while we work urgently with others on a package to restore a healthy, resilient lower Snake River.
4) Expanding SOS' capacity in the Inland Northwest to build new relationships and move Washington State politics. We’ll:
- Roll out new elements of SOS’ Snake River Vision Project – working with local partners and organizations to envision the benefits and economic opportunity of a restored river.
- Build on strong support for a restored lower Snake River with outreach to business and community leaders, recreation clubs, conservation organizations, and fishing people.
- Build a vision for revitalizing the waterfront along a free-flowing river. SOS has begun work with local partners to engage Lewiston (ID) and Clarkston (WA) in visioning a revitalized waterfront.
IV. TOP MEDIA STORIES FROM 2019
SOS led, shaped and/or supported these and many other projects and stories (You can see a full list of 2019 press coverage under Projects on the website).
- A new film argues Lower Snake dams make life worse for salmon, orcas and people in the Pacific Northwest (Crosscut, 8.13)
- Bonneville, the Northwest’s biggest clean-power supplier, faces promise and perils in changing energy markets (Seattle Times, 7.21)
- State budgets $750,000 for outreach over impacts of breaching Lower Snake River dams (Seattle Times, 4.30)
- ‘I want salmon back in Idaho.’ Simpson seeks bold action after $16 billion spent on recovery (Idaho Statesman, 4.23)